Asians and Pacific Islanders for Community Empowerment
Asians and Pacific Islanders for Community Empowerment (API FORCE) came together in Northern California at a September 1994 meeting to discuss "The State of the Asian American Movement." Out of that meeting, and simultaneous with the frustration various Asian American activists experienced over cultural insensitivity in the Proposition 187 campaign, about a dozen activists established an organization to voice progressive concerns of the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community.
API FORCE leadership
API FORCE was founded in January 1995 through the leadership of Eric Mar, George Iechika-McKinney, Dan Nishijima, and Rhonda Ramirez. Later, George Iechika-McKinney, Jung Hee Choi, Sun Lee, Rand Quinn, and Sinai Tongol sat on the Leadership Council.
Bay area Asian American community organizations sponsored a forum in Chinatown that make the link between U.S. imperialism and racism against Asians in the U.S., July 8, 2001. Three Chinese American activists, involved in the Asian American movement from the 1960's to today, spoke about the spy-plane drama that unfolded with China earlier this year.
There was a strong turnout of over 75 people, including Chinatown residents and Asian American activists whose experience ranged from being veterans of the 60's and 70's to new fighters in the struggle. The panelist spoke in English with Cantonese translation, followed by smaller group discussions in Cantonese and English.
A strong anti-imperialist breakdown of U.S.-China relations was presented. Monica Wayie Ly, who is active in Asians and Pacific Islanders for Community Empowerment (API FORCE) said, "Since Bush stole office, there has been an increase in hostility toward the People's Republic of China and Chinese Americans. The U.S. ruling class sees China as an obstacle to total global domination."
Ly also noted, "The spy plane incident is not an isolated incident. The U.S. promised arms to Taiwan, scapegoated Wen Ho Lee, and bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia."
Historically, China has had great importance for Asians in America. From the time when the first Chinese came to America in the 1850's, the connection to China was strong, due to national oppression that kept them from fully participating in American society. In the 1960's, People's China had a huge impact on the Asian American movement. "It was a time to be proud of China's accomplishments. It helped us to organize," said Patsy Chan, a former member of I Wor Kuen, a revolutionary Asian American organization inspired by the work of the Black Panther Party and other Third World people's liberation struggles.
"Mainstream Asian American organizations oppose racism, but won't make the link to U.S. and corporate policy abroad," said Gordon Mar, a long time community activist and former director of the Chinese Progressive Association (San Francisco). While these mainstream organizations object to the increased racism of the American public and media towards China and Chinese Americans, they also try to distance themselves from China by encouraging Asian Americans to become more patriotic and to express their loyalty to the U.S.
The forum's message directly countered the belief that Asian Americans need to prove our worth in this country. We're here because the U.S. was in our homelands. The message our community needs to hear is that as long as U.S. imperialism rules in Asia, Asians living in the U.S. will be denied true equality and continue to face national and racial oppression. Rather than distancing ourselves from Asia, we need to find ways to unite our struggles.
The forum was sponsored by the Asian Left Forum, API FORCE, Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines and Chinese Progressive Association (San Francisco). The Chinese Progressive Association (San Francisco) hosted the event at their office.